Back in January, @lancre donated a puck of Williams with this recommendation:
"As for deviating from your method, all I'm suggesting is a long soak, heavy load, and don't rush it."
Tom's advice was offered at a time when I didn't try soaking soap during optimization trials. Shortly thereafter, I began adding soaking as another variable. It has been a valuable addition. For harder soaps in particular, soaking allows for less lather-building time, denser lather, and more slickness. Months have passed since Tom donated the soap and made his suggestion, but I finally got around to evaluating Williams. Tom was right. A long soak and a heavy load worked really well!
My optimization results with Williams are published below, along with an updated optimum lather performance table. Results are also published in my lather optimization guide in the ShaveWiki.
Overall, Williams is pretty good, maybe even good. Slickness is its best attribute, but I also appreciate how it doesn't "blow up" with bubbles, allowing for more density and control over aeration. Williams isn't the best soap out there, but it is a good value. Thanks, Tom, for the soap and solid advice!
Thanks for reading! Feedback is welcome!
P.S. Hey, @naughtilus, how do you like the photos? I remembered what you wrote last time.
Williams Mug Shaving Soap
Box, puck, and ingredient list
Purchase Date: January 9, 2019. The new box of Williams was generously donated by @lancre and received on January 12, 2019.
Review Period: May 28 to June 21, 2019. 17 optimization shaves and 3 ranking tests.
Manufacturing Location: USA
Ingredients: Potassium stearate, sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, water, glycerin, fragrance, sodium chloride, titanium dioxide, stearic acid, pentasodium pentetate, tetrasodium etidronate. May also contain sodium palm kernelate.
Appearance: Off-white or yellowish
Scent: The soap smells like soap. That's the best that I can describe it.
Optimum Lather Overview: Soaking or dissolving of soap in water produces the best lather for this hard soap. Its optimum lather has a water-to-soap ratio of 14, a total mass of 13.50 g for three passes, and a total bowl lathering time of 90 seconds. Sheen is good to very good. Lather has little structure, very weak peaks, and some yogurt-like behavior of stringiness. Adhesion and application are okay. The scent is not really noticed. Slickness is good to very good. Cushion/protection is okay with little cushion, but okay protection. Post-shave is good or very good with respect to moisture and okay or pretty good with respect to comfort because of some irritation that grows in time after the shave.
Optimization Details: The bowl lathering process used when optimizing Williams is pictured below. The soap mass was measured and, for hard soaps like Williams, pushed into the edge of the lathering bowl. It was discovered that adding a drop or two of water allowed the soap to be pushed together and reformed into a solid mass before adding the rest of the water. The rest of the water, plus extra if preparing the night before, was then added. A finger was then used to rub back and forth against the soap and neatly dissolve it in the water. Right before the shave, more water was added to hit the desired amount, if necessary because of evaporation. Lather building then began with a dry synthetic-hair brush and continued for the optimum amount of time at my agitation rate. The bottom three subpictures show the optimum lather with its weak peaks and good sheen.
Bowl lathering process used for optimization
While experimenting with Williams, the water-to-soap ratio was nonsequentially varied from 8 to 22, total mass varied from 8.80 g to 16.8 g, and lather-building time ranged from 60 seconds to 120 seconds. Slickness generally decreased with increasing hydration, while post-shave quality generally increased with more hydration, at least over the optimization domain. Some time/agitation was necessary to form a stable lather, but too much agitation just increased the lather's aeration. It was appreciated that the lather did not "blow up" upon agitation, that Williams allowed for a more concentrated lather as long as the lather-building time was low enough. By the end of the optimization process, lather built over 90 seconds with a water-to-soap ratio of 14 and a total mass of 13.50 g was determined to produce the approximate optimum lather.
Ranking Details: Three ranking tests were performed by comparing Williams's optimum lather against other optimum lathers in sequential pairs of shaves. The first ranking test was against Stirling. Stirling's optimum lather produced slickness that was not as good, but still good, cushion that was worse, more protection, better post-shave moisture, and similar, but probably better, post-shave comfort. Overall, Stirling was better. The second ranking test was against Saponificio Varesino. SV lather seemed much richer. Slickness from SV was not as good, but it was generally pretty good to good. Cushion/protection, however, was definitely better with SV. Also, post-shave moisture was somewhat better and post-shave comfort was definitely better with SV. Overall, SV was better, more balanced. The third ranking test was against Haslinger. Slickness with Haslinger was definitely not as good as with Williams. Cushion/protection was definitely better with Haslinger, though. Post-shave moisture was not as good with Haslinger, but post-shave comfort was similar, probably a little better with Haslinger. Overall, I liked Williams better, which resulted in Williams being ranked above Haslinger and below SV.